Can Christians experience consistent joy in the Lord? Or is it beyond our reach most times? During hard times, the impossibility of our circumstances can consume our thoughts, filling our hearts with anxiousness and fear. Yet we all have a deep desire to find happiness and contentment in life apart from the constant turmoil we encounter. However, the Lord has not promised a life without trials and suffering. You may ask, How can I rejoice in this season of my life when all seems against me? How can I experience joy when ___? (You fill in the blank.) For some, it may be the loss of a loved one; loss of financial security; failing health; or loss of hope. To them, it seems impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel, much less find joy in it.
I have to confess that I haven’t always experienced joy. In periods of trials or waiting on God, I have succumbed to discouragement, allowing it to steal my joy in the Lord. So I asked God to search my heart and reveal why I have allowed it to strip me of the genuine delight and contentment that comes from knowing Him. Am I guilty of placing my need for happiness and comfort above my passion and desire for God Himself?
The Psalms have been a great source of encouragement when I am perplexed, and struggling with how to handle my emotions. In Psalm 16:11, David said, “in His presence is fulness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Another psalmist in Psalm 43:4 stated that God was his exceeding joy. Both psalmists spoke of knowing a joy that surpassed all others, for their joy came from a deep and close relationship with God. Because we live in a fast pace world, we fill our schedules with a flurry of activities, leaving us with little or no time to spend with the Lord. Therefore, we cannot experience the constant joy that comes from being in His presence.
But what is joy? Joy is a state of gladness and calm delight. We can experience it as we draw near to God, assured of who God is, and what He has promised. It is a work of grace given to us by the Holy Spirit. We cannot manufacture it, nor does joy come from outward circumstances. Happiness differs from joy in that it is dependent on circumstances. Our source of true biblical joy comes from a life focused on God Himself. Therefore, we can know this joy even in moments of deep afflictions. Losing our focus, which is to be centered on Him, we will face disappointment and discouragement that can often lead to depression and, most times, hopelessness.
We may even attempt to seek contentment and delight in relationships or our aspirations, but these will often fail us. It can never bring true joy, for only God can satisfy us. He created in each of us a vacuum that only He can fill. Anything else will fall short. The only way we enjoy an abundance of joy is by knowing God more intimately as we spend time with Him in prayer, worship, and in His word. Unfortunately, these are the things that we often lay aside for lesser things. Let me encourage you to get back on track and refocus your attention on the Lord, for only He can give you the joy and delight you desire. Seek the Lord, for He will never disappoint you.
We then can rejoice in our tribulations, despite them, because we can learn to trust that God is doing a greater work in us through those tough seasons as He prepares us to be with Him someday. The apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Our inward person is being renewed as we take time to be with the Lord. Then, as we set our eyes on the eternal, our perspective changes from the temporary bouts of sorrows and hardships to the hope of the eternal glory that surpasses them all when one day we will be with the Lord forever.
Lord, I know that when I face disappointment and discouragement, it reveals that my focus is no longer on You. I have placed my desire for satisfaction on things and people instead of You, which cannot satisfy the longing in my heart. Forgive me, Lord, and help me draw nearer to You, recognizing that my joy and satisfaction can only come from You.